Israel: Still a Miracle
When the United Nations took the historic vote on November 29, 1947, sanctioning the rebirth of the State of Israel, millions of devout Jewish people and Christians saw it as a bona fide, divinely induced miracle. A nation, long thought to be dead and gone, was back. It was a new beginning that took the world by surprise.
In truth, however, it wasn’t a new beginning at all. It was a fulfillment of the dreams of Jewish people the world over from the time they were dispersed after the Romans burned Jerusalem in A.D. 70. With each new year, at Passover seder tables scattered throughout Gentile domains, Jewish voices were raised to intone the sacred words, next year in Jerusalem. The dream was not an empty fantasy but a hope rooted firmly in the Scriptures.
Jewish people are the People of the Book. Israel is their Promised Land; and Jerusalem, the City of the King. And one day, the prophets said, there would be a great ingathering of Jewish exiles from across the face of the earth. Israel would return to its place of places—and it has.
When Jewish paratroopers with begrimed, tear-stained faces gazed up at the Western (Wailing) Wall in Old Jerusalem on Wednesday, June 7, 1967, they realized the full import of what this homecoming was about. Israeli General Moshe Dayan framed the profound emotion in words when, standing before the wall, he said, “We have returned to our holiest of holy places, never to be parted from it again. . . . We earnestly stretch our hands toward our Arab brethren in peace, but we have returned to Jerusalem, never to part from her again.”
And when army Chief Chaplain Rabbi Shlomo Goren blew the ram’s horn he had brought with him to the wall, it signified two monumental facts: (1) Jerusalem was once again unified. It was, after some 2,000 years, one with its people. (2) The trumpet, as in ancient times, was calling world Jewry to come home. All of these events were, indeed, the stuff of miracles.
The Long, Lonely Road
To say that the return was longed-for must rank among the great understatements of human history. The sons and daughters of Abraham had been a people marked for annihilation for centuries. They suffered at the hands of Crusaders, inquisitors, pogromists, and proponents of expulsion. They were forced to wear degrading emblems identifying them as Jews, and they experienced the affliction of being crammed into crumbling ghettos where they were denied even the simplest rights other people enjoyed.
Living in such hostile, Gentile environments, assimilation would seem to have been the sane choice. Without a country, capital, Temple, or any apparent prospect of a national future, they hung on. The dream stayed alive—a dream based on the hope for a better day for this beleaguered people.
Then, in the 19th century, the impossible began to happen. Although Jewish people had been a presence in Jerusalem since the dispersion, an imperceptible something was taking place. Small bands of Jewish pioneers began to make their way to the Middle East. Philanthropists, such as Baron Edmond James de Rothschild, began to buy up malaria-infested tracts of swampland the Muslim Ottoman Turks thought worthless.
And after the infamous Dreyfus trial in Paris in 1894 (Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish-French military officer, was falsely accused, convicted, and packed off to Devil’s Island), the movement began to take on form and substance. Theodor Herzl, an assimilated Jewish journalist, saw the handwriting on the wall for Europe’s Jews. The welcome mat was being withdrawn, and there were troubled days ahead.
Herzl, therefore, sponsored the First Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland, in 1897. He said of that initial Jewish Congress, “At Basle I founded the Jewish state.” Political Zionism declared the intent to establish a Jewish state in Palestine that would be fully sanctioned by international law.
Although there were those who shared Herzl’s passion to return to the Middle East, most, like the Jews of ancient Babylon, chose to stay put, declaring themselves quite happy with their lifestyles and status as European Jews. Then came Adolph Hitler and his goose-stepping hordes of brown shirts. Six million Jewish people paid the ultimate price for their innocent miscalculation. Among the victims was Herzl’s daughter, TrudeMargarethe, who died in 1943 in the Nazi concentration camp of Theresienstadt.
As Europe’s post-war Jews scraped up the pieces of their shattered lives to face a future bereft of loved ones and friends, they began to turn homeward—to Israel.
At 4:30 P.M. on May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion, who was destined to become Israel’s first prime minister, rose to his feet in the Tel Aviv Museum Hall and declared, “The State of Israel has arisen.” The dreamed-of miracle became a national reality.
A Matter of Survival
A full half-century has passed since those heady days of dreaming, hoping, and struggling to build a country. Jewish immigrants from more than one hundred countries have flooded the land with more Jewish people than were there in the days of Jesus.
But over those fifty and more years, a very different world began to surround little Israel. Gone are the great colonial empires that formed the mandates for a Jewish homeland. Arab independence has birthed tyrannical regimes ruled by men who share Hitler’s demented obsession to see the Jewish state and its people obliterated. Even in the “civilized” West, these people are fomenting a frightening episode of international hatred, chaos, and radicalism.
Who are these belligerent people? What motivates them, and why are they driven to such brutality in their determination to afflict innocent individuals? The search for answers has left many people frustrated, misinformed, and utterly confused.
For these reasons, we have put together this special issue of Israel My Glory. In the pages that follow, we will attempt to answer some of these perplexing questions.
When all is said and done, we pray you will get a fresh glimpse of the wonder of the miracle of Israel that many seem to have forgotten. There is, indeed, a design in all that has happened, is happening, and will yet come to pass. A sovereign God is moving us toward an inevitable consummation.
A friend of mine, scanning events plaguing the world today, said, “I wish it would just all be over. I wish the Lord would come today!” Well, we’re constrained to believe it will be over, perhaps much sooner than we think. What is sure is that the last chapter has been written; and we, together with little Israel, are on the winning side. It’s in the Bible.